It’s easy to make predictions about Central Alberta Theatre’s latest comedy, The Psychic.
Even the most ESP-challenged person can figure out before the stage lights come up that a character named Johnny Bubbles must be a fedora-sporting mobster.
Anyone with the va-va-voom moniker of Rita Malone has got to be packing a set of double-Ds and wearing stilettos, while a struggling writer named Adam would have to be a weird introvert with an over-active imagination.
So it is written (in some pre-ordained pulp novel rule book), and so it unfolds in this moderately amusing Sam Bobrick murder-mystery/comedy that opened Friday at City Centre Stage in Red Deer.
The Psychic is full of schlocky, stereotypical characters and predicaments you can see coming a mile away. But it also mocks the very hackneyed formulas that drive it and contains some truly surprising twists.
The frothy production, directed by Matt Grue, features outstanding performances, including Jeremy Robinson’s nerdy Adam, Derek Olinek’s menacing mobster, and Tara Rorke’s gun moll Rita (although she could turn up the sauciness a few degrees).
But the play had trouble finding a consistent tone and sustained energy — although the pace happily picked up as the action progressed.
The opening scene introduces Adam to a beautiful stranger named Laura. She comes a-knocking after seeing a sign on the basement window of Adam’s run-down apartment advertising psychic readings for $25.
Laura, played by Sarah Gibson, soon deduces that Adam is a fraud. And he quickly confesses that putting up the sign was his desperate attempt to make a few extra bucks.
Suddenly, as if possessed by a spirit from beyond, Adam blurts out “Your husband is planning to kill you.”
This not only gets Laura’s alarmed attention, but precipitates visits from her dodgy hubby Roy, his mistress, and the other man his mistress is sleeping with.
Is Adam really clairvoyant, since he’s able to forecast key events in these people’s lives? Or is something else going on? The Psychic will keep you guessing.
One of the production’s highlights is the inventive set, designed by Patrick Beagan. It captures the seediness of Adam’s furnace-room dwelling, with its exposed steel support beams.
It also has warehouse windows and stairs that the actors must descend to enter the door of the basement apartment.
Looking down the road at the play’s run, I’m confident the unnecessary pauses between dialogue will close in future as the actors become more comfortable with their lines.
I also foretell that Gibson, who found her footing as Laura by the last scene, will find her inner perkiness earlier on, and that Jason Steele, as Roy, and Michael Sutherland, as bombastic Detective Coslow, will continue to amuse audiences nightly.
In other words, anyone who wants a pretty good time, without any heavy themes to think about, will most predictably find it in The Psychic.